Many years ago, when I lived in Cardiff, there was an annual free music festival held on the lawn in front of City Hall. It probably still happens, I have no idea, since I’ve not lived there for almost as long as I did live there.
Spread over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’d find a real mish-mash of bands playing. Some up and coming – I saw Super Furry Animals there for the first time back in 1996 – and, to give you some idea of the rich tapestry of acts who performed, The Spice Girls and Pato Banton were also on the bill that year. I know, you’re jealous, right?
Generally, there would be one evening of current music; one of acts with genuine cultural significance, and one slightly cheesy, 80s-centric night. If I tell you that over the years, I saw Chas’n’Dave, Ray Davies, Gene, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Proclaimers there (other acts to appear include The Lightning Seeds, Catatonia, The Zutons and Camera Obscura) you’ll get the idea. Bands either on their way up, on their way back down again, or so highly revered that they would light up any night.
The weekend would generally be over-run by lads from The Valleys, agog at city life. You might not know it, but this is exactly what this song is about:
One year, Llŷr and I (and a bunch of friends) gathered together one Friday night to watch the legend that is Howard Jones perform.
Yes. That Howard Jones.
Like me, I’m sure you can maybe remember two or three of his hits from his brief time at the front of British pop music. But this night stayed in mine and Llŷr’s memory for a long time afterwards, for two reasons.
Firstly, because he played a keytar. You know, one of these:
Held like a guitar, played like a keyboard, is there anything which embodies 80s music as succinctly as this?
Secondly, Jones introduced his backing band, and, before announcing their name, he described what turned out to be (another) keyboard player as “on music manipulation!”
Llŷr and I found this hilarious, and from that moment on, whenever at a gig where a band was being introduced, or where we were watching something which just seemed so pompous, so over-blown by its own self-importance, one of us would bellow: “And now…on music manipulation…..!”
As with many of our in-jokes, nobody else would have the slightest clue as to why we were falling about laughing.
Anyway, as the curtain rises on what will hopefully be a better year than the last, this – with Howard on music manipulation! – seems appropriate:
It was this or some Labour politicians singing along to D:Ream. Shush.
Happy New Year to you all. Truly, more than any other year, I hope this is better than the last for us all.